PHIST 2019 drew a crowd of some 1,000 participants
Raising a PHIST for the Earth
Ida Anita Q. Del Mundo (The Philippine Star) - October 27, 2019 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Inspired by Greta Thunberg and other youth-led movements for the environment, many participants and even speakers had their own children in tow at the Phuket Hotels for Islands Susztaining Tourism (PHIST) Forum 2019.

“Activism has to be part of tourism,” said Bill Barnett, managing director of C9 Hotelworks and PHIST 2019 co-organizer.

The PHIST forum rallied the hotel industry and its stakeholders to discuss both environmental sustainability and social impact and governance through several workshops and parallel sessions, as well as booths and a lively conference with plenary sessions covering a variety of relevant topics.

With tourism as one of the major industries in Phuket, PHIST has the potential to make a significant impact on reducing the island’s carbon footprint.

Outside the workshop venues, several booths were set up with activities for young environment activists

The second annual PHIST event saw attendance double in size from last year to this year’s 1,000 participants from across Asia, affirming the importance of sustainability for travel and tourism worldwide.

“We are the first generation to be freaking out about what plastic is doing to our oceans, what chemicals are doing to our landscape... So I think more than anything else, what we tried to do is just raise awareness. We partner with so many organizations, including everybody here today, and it’s just a real pleasure to have you all come to support us and help us spread the message that we’re trying to allude today. It’s all about the children. We are really focusing this entire event today on the next generation,” said Anthony Lark, managing director and general manager of Trisara Phuket and president of Phuket Hotels Association, in his opening remarks to media.

“I have four sons myself and I’m inherently aware of our responsibility as the first generation to be aware of what is happening to our planet. I think we all have responsibilities as parents to do something for our children and lead by example. We are the first generation to really start this movement and you can see it globally.”

An installation with information on single-use plastics

For its part, Lark reports that the Phuket Hotels Association last year asked hotel members to make a pledge to remove 100 percent of their plastic drinking bottles and straws used in their hotels, resulting in more than 5 million plastic bottles removed from the Phuket landfill just this year.

The association also launched the Great Big Green Hotel Guide e-book, available to the public for free download (https://www.phukethotelsassociation.com/great-big-green-hotel-guide/), with real life examples and green and sustainable best practices of member hotels, that can also be put to use in anyone’s everyday life.

“We want to share these best practices with all the hotels around the world because there was some practical ideas and solutions to problems that otherwise would not have been considered by the hotel owners and managers,” said Lark.

Joining her father Jesper Palmqvist, 12-year-old Maylea discussed climate change from her generation’s perspective.

Anthony Lark with Rattanachot Srikhongmuang and Kanthep Srikhongmuang, whose rap video won the Green Beat 60 contest

“A lot of people would argue that climate change isn’t real and climate change doesn’t exist. But my generation, the new generation, we have enough, we have given enough data, evidence that climate change is real. And that we should act now because it’s here... Events like this, like PHIST, are helping bring more attention, more awareness, especially here in Phuket,” she said.

“The end goal for me is really making sustainability a key success metric tied to profitability. Because at the end of the day, you have to be able to say, ‘I’m making more money and I am able to do something good at the same time’,” said the elder Palmqvist, who is area director for Asia Pacific of STR, a hotel research company.

He noted that more and more, consumers and travelers today consider the hotel or resort’s green practices before booking.

Representing the Philippines at the forum was Cyndy Tan Jarabata of TAJARA Leisure and Hospitality Group. “We are a hospitality development consultant working with owners for projects in the Philippines,” she says.

“Sustainability comes across as something that’s very critical in what we do because we build a lot, we consult in a lot of the projects inside and outside of Metro Manila. And if you look at the Philippines as a whole, it’s an archipelago, so it’s inevitable that you have to build island destinations as well.”

In the country, sustainability in the industry has also become an important issue.

The Philippine Hospitality on Sustainable Tourism forum was held in Boracay earlier this year, where over a hundred hotel owners and developers met in a smaller version of the PHIST.

“If there’s anything I recognized, last year when I spoke in PHIST, our problems are not really unique. It happens in a lot of island destinations. I think the difference with Boracay is that Boracay Island is small. So, the issues are really right in our face. With Phuket and Bali, it’s a much bigger footprint of land,” said Jarabata.

“Just like any other problem, environment issues are still solvable. It’s definitely solvable,” she said, remaining positive.

With highly-regarded events like PHIST leading the way, it could very well be.

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